7

10

Model

Coupe

Price

$350,000

The Numbers

5935cc, V12, RWD, 380kW, 620Nm, 14.3L/100km, 333g/km CO2, 0-100km/h in 4.6secs, 295km/h, 1785kg

The Topgear Verdict

New DB9, same old DB9. Magnificent to behold, magnificent to hear, but less-than-perfect in many respects. We’re guessing you can forgive it.

2013 Aston Martin DB9 Coupe

Butterscotch. Trundle wheel. Skinny-dipping. It really doesn't matter what we write here. We can tell you the new Aston DB9 doesn't drive as well as a 911, we can point out the many flaws with its interior. But, if you possess eyes, you will say, "I don't care if it's engineered by Mickey Mouse. I want one."

But let's imagine that you are one of the people who bought the original Subaru Tribeca, therefore blind to aesthetics and able to consider the new DB9 objectively. Or, perhaps, the 'new' DB9. Though it sits on the same underpinnings as every previous DB9, Aston claims this is a fresh car. Sixty per cent of the exterior panels are new, while the bonded aluminium chassis is 20 per cent stiffer than before. But wriggle into the cabin and it's apparent this is the same DB9 we've been admiring for a decade. The dash layout is identical and remains not very good.

Aston still hasn't figured out how to connect its radio and satnav units into one cohesive whole. To the dot-matrix (dot-matrix!) info display, one set of buttons; to the so-so Garmin satnav, an independent swathe higher up the centre console.

That said, this DB9 feels fresher than the Virage we drove last year (though there are rumours that the Virage will disappear entirely from the Aston Martin line-up, leaving it DB9-DBS-Vanquish in order of hotness). And the DB9 drives tidily, too. The way this thing glides down bumpy country lanes puts its continental rivals - even the new 911 - to shame. For a big, big-wheeled GT, it has an almost Lotus-like ability to shrug off potholes. The six-speed auto doesn't feel cutting-edge but does its job, and though the carbon ceramic brakes can be a bit squeaky when cold, they're strong and progressive once warm.

"...something that should be called British Gentleman Performance"

But crank out your inner Stig, and the DB9 feels less sorted. The best sports cars seem to shrink around you as you drive them harder, but the DB9 swells, revealing the limitations of its ageing architecture. Though its front end is set very sharp, there's a vagueness to the softer rear, contributing to the sensation that the two halves aren't quite working together. It's neither dangerous nor appalling, but doesn't give you masses of confidence to push on. This remains a car to be driven at a brisk pace, not on its very pretty doorhandles.

The V12, which Aston calls a 'new generation' of engine and we call 'suspiciously similar to the old one', makes 30kW more than the old DB9, but - and though this sounds like a daft thing to say about a 380kW, 6.0-litre behemoth - doesn't feel that fast.

That's fine, though. This is a big, grand British tourer, not an ankle-biting mid-engined coupe, and the DB9 makes up for a lack of face-bending pace off the line by wafting deep into triple-figure speeds on an easy, linear surge of power. And, more importantly, it sounds entirely wonderful, churning out the bellowing, squawking, woofling soundtrack of an exotic menagerie at feeding time.

At least, it does if you remember to hit the Sport button on the dash, which not only puts the exhaust into distort-overdrive mode but also awakens the throttle noticeably. So noticeably, in fact, that once you've calibrated to it, accidentally flipping back into non-Sport mode makes the DB9 feel so hamstrung, you'll be convinced it has become significantly broken and resorted to limp-home mode.

So there it is: new DB9, same as it ever was. Gorgeous to look at, fair to drive, getting pretty ancient on the inside. Is that enough?

Let's be honest, if Aston froze all R&D and continued building this very DB9 for the rest of eternity, its looks alone would ensure it'd find buyers in a couple of decades. But if you have a soft spot for Aston, surely you'd prefer to see it, if not at the cutting edge of technology, at least not slipping in the other direction.

But there definitely is hope. In late 2012, private equity firm Investindustrial injected £150 million ($230 million) in exchange for a 37.5 per cent stake in the company.

Okay, that's not enough to engineer an all-new car from the ground up, but the money men's contacts book might be as useful as their cash: Investindustrial previously took Ducati into partnership with AMG, and Mercedes sources have hinted they could provide engines, gearboxes and electronics to Aston. If the idea of German oily bits in a very British GT sounds odd, don't forget AMG supplies Pagani with its fearsome V12s. Besides, if Aston keeps making cars this pretty, most of the world won't give a damn what's under the skin.

Reviewed by: Sam Philip

Driven: April 16, 2013